President Joe Biden will deliver his first State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday. Despite the economic turmoil and foreign policy disasters that have befouled his first year in office, Biden is expected to portray himself as a successful and competent leader in an effort to rally Democrats ahead of the midterm elections.
For anyone who insists on watching Biden's speech, here are seven important things you need to know before he takes the podium.
9:00 p.m. Eastern Time
That's when the speech is scheduled to begin, although Biden frequently struggles to show up on time. The late hour is already well past his bedtime, and given that State of the Union addresses tend to run at least 60 minutes in length, the 79-year-old president will almost certainly require some form of pharmaceutical and/or bio-mechanical assistance to perform his duty.
The masks are off
The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives is no longer pretending to "follow the science" when it comes to mask mandates. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) scrapped the lower chamber's mandate two days before hosting the State of the Union address. The White House followed suit by announcing that its own mask mandate for staffers and visitors will expire on Tuesday. Democrats across the country have been relaxing mask mandates, decisions motivated less by science than by polling data and widespread public outrage at Democratic politicians blatantly flouting the mask requirements they claim to support.
That's the number of Americans who have died from COVID-19 on Biden's watch. In case you were wondering, that's a lot more than the number of COVID deaths (408,451) under former president Donald Trump, when the media still cared about such things. It is a glaring reminder of Biden's failure to make good on one of the central components of his 2020 campaign: His oft-repeated promise to "shut down" the virus. By his own logic, Biden has disqualified himself from continuing to serve as president. Any leader who presided over more than 200,000 deaths from COVID, then-candidate Biden said in October 2020, "should not remain as president of the United States of America."
That's the average price per gallon Americans are paying at the gas pump these days, according to AAA. That's an increase of 33 percent compared with this time last year, when the average price per gallon was $2.72. Gas is hardly the only item getting more expensive on Biden's watch. Last month, the Labor Department reported the largest annual increase in inflation in four decades. Prices continue to surge across a number of categories, including food and electricity.
That figure represents the portion of American voters who approve of Biden's job performance, according to a recently published ABC News/Washington Post poll. By contrast, 55 percent of voters said they disapproved of Biden's job performance, including 44 percent who "strongly" disapproved.
That's not very good, and the numbers only get worse for Biden's party, which is hoping to avoid a catastrophic defeat at the ballot box in November. According to the poll, registered voters prefer Republican candidates to Democratic candidates by a margin of 49 percent to 42 percent. The GOP advantage jumps to 54 percent (compared with 41 percent for Democrats) among registered voters who said they are certain to vote in the midterm elections. Ouch.
The Taliban still sucks
Remember the Biden administration's disastrous withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan? The residents of Kabul certainly do. Over the weekend, Taliban militants launched a series of door-to-door raids across the capital. That might sound bad, but a Taliban spokesman said the searches were carried out in a "professional" manner and were not aimed at "common people" but rather "those who are thieves, kidnappers, who cause misery to our society." What a relief.
Europe is definitely a continent
Nikole Hannah-Jones, the Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist behind the controversial 1619 Project, denounced the media coverage of the war in Ukraine as white supremacist. She went on to claim that Europe was "not a continent by definition, but a geopolitical fiction to separate it from Asia." Hannah-Jones is widely regarded as a talented intellectual and expert on racial justice. She has not published an article in the New York Times since June 2020, but is scheduled to deliver the keynote address this weekend at the annual conference of the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges.